Monday, April 27, 2020

USA Blu-ray debut for Alain Corneau's 1979 would-be cult film, SÉRIE NOIRE

Said to have been inspired by the Jim Thompson novel, A Hell of a Woman, the 1979 French film SÉRIE NOIRE was directed and co-adapted (with major help on the latter by Georges Perec) by the late Alain Corneau, a filmmaker whose work TrustMovies has usually very much enjoyed. While everything I've seen by this fellow would qualify as a good deal more than adequate, this film doesn't even come close to that.

Corneau, pictured right, evidently decided to filter Thompson's tale through the sensibility of dark comedy, if not outright farce, leading almost immediately and consistently thereafter to something very close to camp. Worse yet, unintentional camp.

The movie's star, the also late Patrick Dewaere (below), appears to have been given rein to go full-throttle. The result is rather like watching Nicolas Cage at his wildest and worst. In his too-short career, Dewaere was always threatening to go over the top. Here he does it in spades, giving the kind of what-the-fuck performance I should think might have caused the sctors working with him to run for the hills.

The story here involves a seedy salesman (Dewaere) who happens upon an elderly female client who has recently been cheated by another of the salesman's clients. She has a nubile, seemingly nympho neice (the also late Marie Trintignant, below, right) whom she rents out, and to whom our salesman takes an addled fancy. (Just about everything Dewaere does here is addled.)

Our salesman also has a nutty/slutty wife (Myriam Boyer) and a deadpan sleazebag boss (the-best-of-the-lot performance from Bernard Blier, below, right) and yet another client/friend (Andreas Katsulas) who is as crazy as everybody else. And that's a big part of the problem. Everyone is so busy being "out there" there very soon there's no "there" there, as Ms Stein, for other reasons, once surmised. I don't doubt that our world is full of reprobates and hypocrites, myself included, but Mr. Corneau's world here is more like an alternate universe with little of the fun or semi-logic that most of these provide.

You might indeed say that the filmmaker turns the conventions of noir on their head, subverting them into would-be comedy. Yet even by this standard, Serie Noire does not work, but instead takes its place as one of  the biggest major misfires in movie history: no suspense, no real laughs, no credibiity, no nuttin'. Oh, wait:  there is plenty of embarrassment.

"Name me one guy who's been as unlucky as me?" shouts our nitwit protagonist near the film's finale. After watching this far into things, the viewer may want to scream back at him, "Me!"  From Film Movement Classics, in French with English subtitles and running a lengthy 116 minutes, the movie hits the street -- in a fine Blu-ray transfer featuring some very interesting extras (yes, even if you disliked this work as much as I did) -- tomorrow, Tuesday, April 28 -- for purchase and/or rental.

No comments: